Lawyered-up? The perils of sign-offs in content marketing

May 1, 2013 2:14 pm

Have you got permission to quote sources in your content marketing?
The brand journalists among you (with emphasis on the journalist) might consider that a redundant question. You interview someone – in person, over the phone or on camera – and then use some of what they tell you. Or choose not to.

Lawyer cartoonBut this piece by Contently (Should Brands Require Sources to Sign Releases for Content Marketing?) asks the question: What would happen if a source later turns around and says they never gave permission to be quoted? What if, for example, they say they didn’t know they might be seen to be endorsing a brand?

Put release forms in front of every subject? Sounds like a pain. They might decline to take part. They might, less obviously, adjust what they would say. Those are just some of the arguments.

But in an age where litigation can spring from the most unlikely places and is often not even about having a real case to bring, should we as a growing industry sit up and take notice?

Recently Paul Keers from White Light Media blogged for the CMA about how the UK’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport was defining what counts as a publication that warrants regulation. Brand publications look like they’re not going to be covered.

You’d think that’d be a good thing. But, as he says, how different are Olive and Waitrose Kitchen?

This is also about the professionalisation of the content marketing industry. If one day some brand publications really are to win Pulitzers then they will have to approach subject matter the same way as the finest media titles or TV shows.

And those guys don’t get release forms for their best journalistic work.

This is the first in a series about the practicalities of brand journalism.

* photo credit: cali.org via photopin cc

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